Women who retract rape claims will be dealt with 'personally' by DPP after string of 'failings' in prosecution process

 

Keir Starmer

Keir Starmer will personally have to approve moves to prosecute women who retract a rape allegation

There have been ‘failings’ in the treatment of women who withdraw rape claims, the director of public prosecutions admitted last night.

Keir Starmer was giving his first public statement since a woman convicted of perverting the course of justice for retracting a rape claim was freed from prison.

He said that from now on moves to prosecute women who retract a rape allegation would need his personal approval.

Mr Starmer also admitted that in some cases where rape allegations have been withdrawn, government prosecutors failed to ensure justice.

Mr Starmer, who is the chief prosecutor in England and Wales, also raised concerns about how rape cases were dealt with more generally, describing one decision by government prosecutors to abandon a rape case as a ‘serious mistake’.

‘There have been cases recently where … I do not consider justice was done or was seen to be done,’ he wrote in The Guardian.

‘Apologies and legal explanations offer scant comfort to a victim and the public are rightly reluctant to place their trust in public authorities unwilling to accept their failings.

‘We need to work on our approach in retraction cases. From now on, my approval for charging will be needed in these cases and we will monitor them closely.

‘If the victim has decided to withdraw a rape allegation, we must explore the issues behind that, particularly if the victim is under pressure or frightened.’

His statement follows a ruling by Lord Judge, the Lord Chief Justice, on the case of ‘Sarah’.

She was convicted of perverting the course of justice after making a rape allegation.

This was despite judges’ belief that her claim of long-term abuse, intimidation and rape by her husband was true.

Overturning her sentence on appeal, Lord Judge stated that the courts should ‘recognise and allow for the pressures in which the truthful complainant in such a relationship has been exposed’.

He said women who were raped by a husband or partner whose behaviour involved ‘dominance, power and control’ became ‘extremely vulnerable’.

And he argued that there should be a ‘broad measure of compassion’ for a woman who had been ‘victimised’.

Mr Starmer’s decision to personally approve cases where a woman faces prosecution for retracting rape claims is unusual.

Just a handful of other offences, including double jeopardy and assisted suicide, are subject to such checks.

Reiterating his public apology to Sarah, Mr Starmer said prosecutors would do more to ensure improvement in the way rape victims were treated.

‘Apologies and explanations should only be the beginning of a process intended to ensure future improvement,’ he said.

‘Myths and stereotypes have no place in a criminal justice system underpinned by basic human rights.’

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